Russia claims some progress in Ukraine negotiations

The head of the Russian delegation in talks with Ukrainian officials says the parties have come closer to an agreement on a neutral status for Ukraine.

Vladimir Medinsky, who led the Russian negotiators in several rounds of talks with Ukraine, including this week, says the sides have narrowed their differences on the issue of Ukraine dropping its bid to join NATO and adopting a neutral status.

“The issue of neutral status and no NATO membership for Ukraine is one of the key issues in talks, and that is the issue where the parties have made their positions maximally close,” Medinsky says in remarks carried by Russian news agencies.

He adds that the sides are now “half-way” on issues regarding the demilitarization of Ukraine.

Medinsky notes that while Kyiv insists that Russia-backed separatist regions in Ukraine’s east must be brought back into the fold, Russia believes that people of the regions must be allowed to determine their fate themselves.

Russia recognized the separatist regions’ independence and used their call for military support as a pretext to launch an attack on Ukraine on February 24.

Medinsky notes that a meeting between Russian President Vladimir Putin and Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelensky is possible after the negotiators finalize a draft treaty to end the hostilities and it receives a preliminary approval by the countries’ governments.

Medinsky also bristles at a recent statement by Oleksiy Arestovych, an adviser to Zelenskyy, who called for disrupting railway links to supply Russian troops in Ukraine, saying it could undermine the talks.

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